Probation ends following crematory mixup

Probation ends following crematory mixup

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Probation for a local crematory that gave the ashes of two stillborn infants to the wrong families has ended.

Westmoreland Services, Inc. owned by Bennett Funeral Home, is no longer on probation.

12 Investigator Diane Walker exposed the mix-up in 2013, after a Petersburg mother turned to NBC12 for help when her baby's ashes were mislabeled. The state ordered Westmoreland Services to complete compulsory measures to make sure this never happens again.

Asked for specifics on how procedures have changed at the crematory, and about how it feels to be off probation, Bennet Funeral Homes and Westmoreland Services sent a one-sentence statement: "Bennett is grateful the entire situation has been resolved and will have no further comment."

You may remember grieving mother Quia Henderson. She opened the box containing her daughter's urn a year after the cremation and made the dreadful discovery.

"I'm very upset, saddened and disappointed. We put our baby in you guys hands to take care of her," she said in December 2013.

Bennett Funeral Home, Westmoreland Services, Inc. did the cremation free of charge. The Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers investigated and found what 12 Investigates reported months earlier -- that an employee of Westmoreland Services, Inc. owned by Bennett, misidentified two cremated babies' remains. The board said the remains were placed in the wrong urns and given to the wrong parents. It then ordered each of the company's crematory operators to complete continuing education on the proper way to identify and label remains in addition to extra training.

The state closed a seven-month investigation and put the company on probation. Probation was lifted four months ago. A copy of the letter the State Board sent to Westmoreland Services says in essence that after a review of information, Westmoreland Services has successfully complied with all the terms of its Order and has maintained a course of conduct as a crematory in compliance with state law.

Quia called 12 back in 2013 after she says a Bennett employee told her it was just a typo and to come pick up the correct certificate. It turned out to be more than just the numbers on cremated remains not matching.

"I thank God for you. Yes, Ma'am, I do," she said two years ago.

The corrected switch was made back in March. The State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers says that Bennett - Westmoreland Services now has a full, and unrestricted license, to operate.

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